I have recently found myself doing the east coast/west coast dance again. I am beginning to think that’s normal for most actors. Perhaps it’s the cooler temperatures here in NYC, or the recent spark to perform that was reignited with a theatre contract. Or the fact that my friends out west seem to be making strides of progress over the ones here in NYC. As thoughts dance around in my head, here are some of the conclusions and topics that have boggled my brain:
I have far more friends in NYC living and/or pursuing careers in acting – varying from stage, tv, film, improv and stand-up. I have a handful of friends doing the same thing out west. The ones out west are WORKING. Sure, they have survival jobs (well, some don’t!), but they are DOING IT. They aren’t doing back ground work or hoping to be discovered at a night club. They are going to auditions, workshops, classes, and BOOKING. They are co-starring, guest-starring, booking theatre contracts, indy films – they are constantly doing something great that is moving them forward. In fact, I don’t know of any friends out in LA who aren’t making strides and hustling. Not to say that my friends in NYC aren’t working their butts off, and booking too – some are doing FANTASTIC things! BUT, the percent of those in NYC who are making the strides of those in LA is WAY off.
Why is that? Are my friends out west more ambitious? More talented? More marketable? Lucky? Perhaps. But I am going to guess that at the end of the day, LA is where you need to be if you are REALLY going to be an actor.
I have heard the argument more and more that NYC is the place to be. More projects are filming here than ever! This is true. But do you know where many of those actors are cast from? LA. Sure, they’ll hold auditions here, but for some reason even little walk-on parts mostly go to LA actors. Production would cast and fly an actor out for a few lines. It happens all the time. Not to say NYC actors don’t book projects – they do! But the amount of projects that are cast here vs. LA makes it clear that LA is indeed, still the center of the filming world.
Okay, so what about theatre? NYC has Broadway, and theaters from all over the country come here to host auditions, right? Sure they do! And that’s why NYC has so many talented stage actors, dancers and singers. But, you will note that many leads on Broadway right now are being filled by ….. drumroll please! – Celebrities!!!!! Most are from LA and tv/film. So the odds that you’ll even be seriously considered for a lead on Broadway these days are no better than winning a lottery ticket. Sure, it happens. I have friends currently on Broadway, and they are fabulous. And if you are a dancer, you have much better odds of employment. And as far as those Regional Theaters go, many hire local hires (it’s cheaper), or use the same folks season after season – making it hard to break in. There is theatre in LA, and luckily for theatre actors out there, most actors who choose Tinsel Town go to become a celebrity. I have been told many times that in LA, there is a lack of down to earth, trained, talented theatre actors. And no, they don’t pay much, but you get to actually get on stage and do what you love!
It wasn’t my intent of this blog to make LA sound all perfect and NYC like dead-end. That certainly isn’t the case. However, as I see how careers are shaped around me, I will agree with the advice one of the Producers of Blue Bloods gave me years ago: If you want to be an actor, you need to be in LA.
So why am I still in NYC? Lot’s of reasons, and I’m sure those reasons are true for many of my actor friends in the concrete jungle. For one, moving across the country is expensive, and starting over is scary. Most of my friends and family are in the northeast part of the country. And at times, I despise this business. While I love it most of the time, it certainly has burned me out and left me feeling hostile and lost – which doesn’t fuel the desire to relocate 3000 miles. That being said, there are times I absolutely love my life as an actor. Being able to go to work and “play,” and bring entertainment, emotion, and joy to others is one of the best feelings. Whenever I feel down on this business, something reminds me why I fell in love with acting and singing as a child, and why I crave having it as part of my life.
Will I ever move to LA? I don’t know. It would be an adventure, and I do love a good adventure. But it would also be a risk, and something I feel I would really, definitely have to WANT to do. Then again, I don’t want to live with any regrets. None of us do. Though it’s hard to say what decisions we’ll regret and which ones we’ll celebrate. All I know is this: we all choose our own paths. We have to do what makes us happy. What defines someone’s happiness or success is up to them. For all of us, it will vary. And that’s pretty darn cool.